Health & Safety

  • Occupational health and safety
  • HIV/AIDS program

Occupational Health and Safety

The global economy has ushered in widespread changes in the world of work, ranging from technological advancement, booming operations of the multinational corporations driven by the force for profit maximization. The drive for profit maximization is often the source of conflict among employers, government and workers’ organization. This stems from the fact that issues of rights at work, including occupational health and safety receive little or no attention. Subsequently, there exists the looming challenge on the part of governments’ failure to enforce health and safety standards for fear of losing investment opportunities to other countries thereby trading workers’ health and safety for macro-economic gains.

In the concern for workers’ welfare with regards to ensuring a healthy work environment, the union continues to emphasize issues of occupational health and safety in the mills. The union has taken a giant stride to ensure massive awareness on issues of health and safety at work by organizing series of joint workshops on occupational health and safety with support of ITGLWF. The union organizes regular in-plant seminars on occupational health and safety.

HIV/AIDS Program

  • Achievements recorded
  • Previous interventions

Over the years, workers in the textile and garment industry have been silent on HIV/AIDS and this has impacted negatively on efforts to mitigate stigma and discrimination. The culture of silence and denial was also reflected in the exclusion of HIV/AIDS issues in branch and zonal reports to the national secretariat. However, a marked difference in HIV/AIDS reporting and activities in the union started effectively since 2004 and has continued since then.

In September 2008, a Cooperative Agreement between the Academy for Educational Development (AED), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) the National Union of Textile Garment and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) as sub-recipient was signed for award of a grant in the sum of N4, 213, 757.50 to provide support for HIV/AIDs activities in the workplace.

The subaward was to take effect from September 1 2008 to run through August 31, 2009 subject to compliance with the conditions and terms of the subaward.

Prior to the commencement of the project activities, AED-Smartwork Nigeria undertook institutional capacity building assessments of the six partner organisations. Two officials of AED-Smartwork (Dr. Soji Akinleye – Consultant and J.K. Kola Olabisi, Programme Manager) visited the union in Friday December 5 2008 to conduct the assessment. The objective was to enhance the activities the partners will be implementing to expand HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support in the workplace. The information obtained was used to develop year one capacity building plans for each partner.

This was followed by series of training activities organised by AED for the project staff. NUTGTWN has five staff working under the project (2 full time and 3 part-time) namely, Comrades Ismail Bello – Project Manager (50%), Mikhail Ibrahim – Project Accountant (50%), Opara Joachim – Project Officer (50%), Medinat Balogun (100%) and Kawal Kehinder – Project Officer in Lagos (100%). The General Secretary of the union is the Co-ordinator and the President of the Union, Authorised Signatory in keeping with the union’s tradition of ensuring checks and balances.

The project since then has undergone five modification stages that extends the period of the agreement.

Achievements Recorded

  • Through the workplace programmes and activities, we made tremendous progress in breaking the culture of silence and non-disclosure associated with HIV. Some of the workers who tested positive during the HCT services are increasingly willing to openly disclose their status and are also being linked together under one platform. It was significant that a worker that was dismissed on account of his HIV status was successfully re-instated through the intervention of the union. The said worker has served as resource person during some of our training programmes.

    One of the textile workers living positively with HIV was also a resource person at the last World’s AIDS Day symposium organised by NLC in Abuja. The Union was selected for a presentation during the last International Conference on HIV/AIDS held in Abuja. The Project Manager, Comrade Ismail Bello gave a brief presentation on the topic: HIV/AIDS: FROM SILENCE AND DENIAL TO ACCEPTANCE OF WORKPLACE ACTION IN NIGERIA: THE NUTGTWN EXPERIENCE.

  • Gradually the union is making management to accept the view that being HIV positive does not affect productivity provided the said worker is supported for his/her routine treatment. Labour unions can serve as change agents in mitigating stigma and discrimination in the workplace and protecting workers’ rights.

Previous Interventions

  • The union had before now recognised that HIV/AIDS is a trade union issue, and has remained committed in massively creating awareness among members. The union recognises that the need to raise awareness on HIV/AIDs cannot be overemphasised since the key to preventing the pandemic relies heavily on the level of awareness. This explains the collaborative initiatives with different organisations to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic namely National Action Committee against Aids (NACA) and the National Project Team (NPT) from 2004 to 2007 (World Bank assisted project to the tune of N6,450,800). We also partnered with the AED-Smartwork in 2005.
  • The Smartwork organised the maiden edition of workplace HIV/AIDS Best Practice Award. The union received award recognising its contribution in promoting HIV/AIDS issues at the workplace in 2004/2005. Comrade Ismail Bello also received individual award for HIV/AIDs programming in the workplace in 2004/2005. We also collaborated with the International Textile Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF) with activities targeting the shopfloor which is the best place to raise awareness and encourage behaviour change among those most affected by the pandemic. Shopfloor representatives occupy strategic position in raising awareness and maintaining direct communication link with members.